“The supreme art of war is to subdue the enemy without fighting.” - Sun Tzu, The Art of War.
Psychological warfare has been a mainstay in humanity’s eldest pastime over the millennia. The Vietnam War, a particularly bloody affair, was without exception. While both sides conducted their own forms, the US Military’s PSYOPS division executed a particularly interesting (albeit haunting) tactic.
In Vietnamese culture, there is a strongly held belief that the dead must be buried in their homeland. The feeling being that if one is improperly buried then their soul will wander in pain and aimless isolation; constantly hungry and listless. So during the war the US military employed engineers to spend weeks recording what are some pretty terrifying sounds - intended to imitate the cries of all the dead who never had proper burial during combat. These audio clips, known as “Ghost Tape Number 10” were beamed from helicopters or speaker backpacks hidden in the jungle. In several accounts the recordings actually worked, at times sparking superstitious Vietnamese soldiers to make rash decisions such as firing their weapons in rage or flee positions in fear; revealing their covert posts. Even after eventually learning they were hearing a recording from the enemy - the damage had been done for many Vietnamese soldiers, the thought seeded that death on the battlefield would mean an afterlife of endless wandering.
While the “Wandering Soul” operation has no hard data to support the scope of its’ effectiveness - it demonstrates the troublingly ghoulish tactics man will employ in war. The actual recording itself and a wealth of additional information (including personal accounts) can be found here.
- Esotericana contributor Sam Wegman is a musician and writer from Portland, Oregon.